Quickly Now! Chroma's Final Spring 2014 Impressions!
Welcome back, readers! That’s right, Anime Expo 2014 is only one week away! However, that doesn’t mean that I’ll be skimping out on my website duties. So without further ado, shall we look at some series from this season?
Gochumon wa Usagi desu ka?
It’s almost time for the Rabbit House to close up shop for the season, but was this little romp through the lives of café maidens worth its while? Short answer, kind of. Long answer, well…it felt decently lackluster compared to what I was hoping with it. I know, going into a series with expectations is not a good idea (especially a slice-of-life series), but I really needed an exemplary series in the genre after the void left when Kiniro Mosaic and Non Non Biyori came to a close. When matched up to that, it didn’t quite cut the coffee cake for me. Don’t get me wrong, the series isn’t boring or offensive. There are quite a few scenes to just wholeheartedly enjoy and they are genuinely fantastic, but I thought it could have had more of these scenes.
Let me go on the record by saying I have absolutely nothing against cute series. I love cute things to death. The atmosphere is sublime, truly giving off as much of an artisan environment as a moé show about little rabbits and girls can. I really enjoyed a short arc in the series where the poetic novelist character Aoyama returns to her old cafe to find out the master of the house has passed on. It was a nice bit of character development that helped progress the attachment to the series, but almost none of the other characters get this treatment. Cocoa has an insanely short moment like this too, where it’s implied that she had established an unpremeditated connection to the Rabbit House when she was a tiny little girl. This coincidentally occurred in the same episode as my previous example. More of this, please!
Hitsugi no Chaika
To whoever made this series, “kansha!” (or "grateful!"). Hitsugi no Chaika was overall well received from the people I talked to, and after subbing it week by week, I can certainly see why. It doesn’t matter who watches the series, “Chaika” is the name that springs the emotions in us. Popular pick Chiaka Trabant (better known as “White Chiaka”) is the sweet, klutzy and easily trusting one, while other very popular pick Chaika Bogdan (Red Chaika) is a fiery fighter equipped with a deadly snake blade and a sharp tongue. These differing versions of the protagonist create a very fun and well-mixed atmosphere to the series, and I only hope that going into the upcoming second season, we’ll see more and more of them. It’s not a means of character development, but the charm simply lies in seeing how wildly unique each new Chaika appearance can be. If that turns your gaze towards a “one-trick pony” series, then don’t count out the other characters just yet.
Other protagonists Toru and his sister Akari are combat-trained saboteurs, always itching for a job where they can let loose their fighting spirits. Akari has this comedic and actually not creepy love for her brother, which often results in comments like “I’m having you stuffed when you’re killed” and “You may be my brother, but I won’t let you insult the brother I admire!”. They’re both great characters. Then there’s a dragoon girl named Fredrica who just loves to scream “Can I kill yet?!” while shaking her massive dragoon fists around. It’s an undeniably amusing spectacle to say the least.
Each episode came packaged with a desire to watch the next, and it’s easily my favourite series of the season. The battle choreography is solid (take notes, Sword Art Online), the soundtrack is alive with ambiance, and the goal at hand is strange, but relatable.
Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san
It’s raining cats and dogs! Oh wait, it’s just Inugami and Nekoyama. Not too much to say on this series, as it’s short and not a whole ton happens. Inugami acts very much like a dog and yet adores cats. Vice-versa for Nekoyama. The two share some quick jabs of comedy together, often leaving their semi-normal friend in between to try and remember what planet she’s currently on.
The series overall was average fun. There are a number of jokes that work pretty well, while some episodes just fly by without me spotting any memorable moments. It’s really a stab in the dark most of the time, and most of the time you luckily don’t end up with a shank through your palm. As sporadic and insane the speed at which Nekoyama and Inugami throw dialogue at each other, they’re both just enjoyable to watch. Inugami’s so absurdly crazy and obsessed, while Nekoyama attempts to be the shy introvert, but ultimately showing her sadistic side.
There’s a multitude of other characters with the same attempts at resembling animals, but the gimmick falls flat by this point. The series is named after Inugami and Nekoyama, and they’re really the only truly interesting characters. If you’re ridiculously bored and need something quick to watch, this series may be worth checking out. For the rest of us, it’s something that can be passed over with just as much effort.
Thousands upon thousands of hearts have melted this season, dear readers. A deadly series known only as Isshukan Friends has poisoned us with its absurd levels of cute. But how is the series itself? Well, I’m glad to say that the series kept me interested and charmed throughout, without fail. It introduces a stellar cast of non-perfect characters and allows us to relate with them early on, making the climb through their struggles and achievement of their goals that much more prevalent. Fujimiya Kaori is exceptionally adorable, residing in between a struggling social life and a deep emotional want to be able to retain a proper friendship with someone. When protagonist Hase decides he wants to persistently attempt building said relationship week-by-week, it springs others to try and do the same.
I like Hase overall as a character. He’s overly shy and has some serious troubles being true to his emotions, but he’s not dense either. He knows he likes Kaori, and even gets easily jealous when others get in between their “friendship”. Later addition Yamagishi Saki is almost everything I personally love in a cute character. Her sleeves droop over her tiny arms, she has a ridiculously charming attachment to Kaori, and her ludicrously short memory makes me laughably ponder at how she even remembers what her name is. It’s just a great cast in general.
So is there anything that kind of irks me? It’s the drama, straight and true. There was a conflict established from the very first moments of the series, setting a potential for much more gut-busting, heart-wrenching drama that would have brought on the tear buckets I have only ever pulled for two series. Unfortunately, the series took the natural and predictable path of progressing the characters straight from point A to B, with a couple tiny bumps along the way. Hase acts like a jerk over some small things, Kaori finds out an old secret, but it’s all resolved so easily. I didn’t even really feel bad at most of the scenes. It really felt like a wasted potential for me, blasting a massive black void into where I had hoped a gleaming diamond would be shining. With all that said, still check out this series. It’s adorable, it’s fun, and it’s just downright charming. I’d adopt Saki as my little sister the second I had the chance, but she’d probably forget who I was the second I talked to her. I’d still do it.
Love Live! School Idol Project - 2nd Season
It’s the series that has scored the highest on my official rankings this season, and it’s about time I explained why. Do those of you who read my 2013 summary post recall why I thought the first season of Love Live was nice, but felt like it was a bit lacking? Things do improve in this season, in my opinion. Characters like Ayase Eri and Nishino Maki had their own little episodes to be established, but many others were immediately assigned the position of “backup” in the grand scheme of things.
Season 2 basically takes a page from the esteemed book of THE iDOLM@STER progression and gives episodic arcs to the characters. I love how they even made A-RISE, their established and talented opposition respectable. They invite the group to talk with them, they share sentiments with each other, and they all wish each other the best, and may the best group win. Now that’s good characterization. Even the overly annoying Nico had her own arc that I mostly enjoyed. The music remains just as nice as always, but another area of vast improvement were the 2D to 3D transitions. Looking back at it all, they did look horrendously awkward in the first season, but it’s definitely getting a bit better. After seeing the atrociously animated performance from Wake Up, Girls!, can we really complain? Well yes, but nowhere near as much. The series even manages to be hysterically entertaining at times on top of all of this. In its early stages of less serious content, I’d be laughing at something every episode. Two certain scenes rendered me useless on the table, clutching my chest in pain from the laughter.
The group’s come a long way, and yes, this season is all about trying to get to the giant Love Live festival. When you toss all of the buildup and progression of getting to this difficult event and project it at us with one facial expression, it really does hit deep. Love Live! School Idol Project as a whole is nothing overly remarkable, but it's a decent watch if you like idol shows.
No Game No Life
Do you like games? Sure, who doesn’t? But if you set down a Scrabble board and look expectantly at the protagonists to make the first move, expect that board and surrounding dimension to evaporate into nothing in an instant. This is the madness of No Game No Life. Protagonists Sora and Shiro are not blood-related (of course, they never are if there's romantic attachments involved in any way), but I don't mind their portrayal of their unity. They’re prepared to take any and all ridiculous and immoral actions to ensure victory in their challenges, and you can easily sense that it’s more of a respectful love than something like Ore no Imoto managed to pull off. It’s true the series sports an awkward fascination with the fanservice, but at the end of the day, I can safely say that Sora and Shiro aren’t in some strange incestuous romance with each other.
On to the games themselves. It’s somewhere in between “flaky as all hell” and “overly epic”. Starting at the left end of the spectrum, there are many conflicts brought up in the games that are just BS’d over, like a chess match focused on mental strength. How does Sora win? He inspires the pieces to convert to their side using a speech that wouldn’t even make it into one of Michael Bay’s attempts at “romance”. On the flip side though, there are amazingly detailed and interesting battles, like materialization shiritori against a Flugel race remnant that has spent her life absorbing endless amounts of knowledge. The entirety of the match from beginning to end was supremely enjoyable, though I don’t envy the people who had to attempt subbing that game. Overall, it feels like it’ll be cut off at some awkward point after this upcoming final episode, but maybe they’ll have an S2? You can bet I’ll watch it if that happens.
Pander, pander, pander, sell. There’s a disgusting scent of money-grubbing over this series, and I absolutely detest its cheap methods of lengthening to sell out more and more. Yes, Nisekoi is “false love”, and it’s such an appropriate title as that’s what it spreads constantly. Utilizing cute characters and that strange Shaft style (which at this point can no longer be called “avant-garde”, by the way), it sucks you in hoping something will happen. Then nothing does. Then I get mad.
Protagonist Raku is a dense raincloud of idiocy, doing absolutely nothing worthwhile unless he’s been pushed into it during a scenario. Harem picks Chitoge, Onodera, Marika, Monica, Erica, Rita, Tina, etc. are all vapid, empty-headed and/or entirely pointless, aside from being pretty and chewing the scenery. I even gave up on Onodera just after the halfway point, as her inability to progress any minuscule element of her potential relationship with Raku (despite having a great friend who volunteers all of her free time to try and hook you up) ultimately turned me away.
You know that cliché of two romantic interests beat around the bush for minutes, attempt to press lips in super slow motion, only to have it interrupted by a horrendously accurate baseball through the window? Yeah, that’s the cliché they copy/pasted in all 20 episodes. Play up to the crowd who eats up the heroines being cute, and forget about having some establishment and growth to our characters. It’s an overall unlikable series with nothing interesting to offer. If you want to watch teenagers shrug their shoulders about and beat around the bush, just close your eyes and remember your honest and good friends in high school.
Ryugajou Nanana no Maizokin
Let’s take a look at this interesting little specimen. With the promise of “treasure hunting”, I wanted this series to be great. Dashing excitements of finding the most sacred of treasures of the world like 'National Treasure' and 'The Da Vinci Code' always brought me good forms of entertainment, regardless of what others said about them. I also thought of mad dashes for the prizes, like the zany goings-on of 'It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World' or 'Rat Race'. Either way, it couldn’t fail, right? Well, I quickly remembered that the examples I mentioned had a good focus, and a progressing sense of urgency and danger to the chases that made them exciting.
There’s really not much of anything in this series. Most of the characters are stuck on mostly one or two dimensions, and while the treasures themselves should be awesome (relics granting inhuman abilities), they’re heavily brushed over for nothing. People overcome a trial to reach the relics, and they don’t even really care afterwards. “Oh, a treasure that lets me view the past. You keep it. No, you keep it.” Even worse is how they establish Nanana from the beginning as an important character, but never go past that. She was killed by a mysterious someone. She wants him found. She plays games and eats pudding because she’s cursed to haunt protagonist Jugo’s room. That’s all you get in the whole series. Oh, and she’s good at hand-to-hand combat, I guess, but she never leaves the room anyways, so it's a useless trait to showcase. You see what I mean?
The entire purpose of the story and the conclusion of the murder arc results in a clichéd ending that was seriously disappointing. By then though, I was already mostly out of it, so it didn’t hit me that hard anyways. I’ll give the show some credit, the rooms and devious traps that guard the treasure are creative and somewhat fun. Even in that department though, it fails itself often with certain treasures. It’s just not worth your time, so definitely spend your precious hours on something better.
Tonari no Seki-kun
Here’s another short series, and another I can’t really say much on. It’s okay. It’s fine, and it’s not bad. The episodes keep trying new things and I commend them for it.
Overall however, the episodes ranged from a time-kill to slight boredom, and I can’t really recommend a series that constantly walks that fine line. However, as previously mentioned, it does have some strange charm to it, and it might be worth checking out if you like short, episodic takes on the antics of a creative and bored student, and just how much these antics slowly drag a good student away from her focus and solid grades. When you boil it all down, the irony in itself is always fun. It's not something I would put in a recommended bin if asked though.
And that ends it for the impressions of Spring 2014! Looking back on it all, it wasn’t a great season overall. However, I am always thankful for any enjoyable moments I had and consider the entirety of it all as an experience for moving forward. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you…AT ANIME EXPO!